Sunday, November 27, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus Resurrects from the Dead

Luke 24:1-12:

[1] And on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared. [2] And they found the stone rolled back from the sepulchre. [3] And going in, they found not the body of the Lord Jesus. [4] And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel. [5] And as they were afraid, and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: Why seek you the living with the dead? 
[6] He is not here, but is risen. Remember how he spoke unto you, when he was in Galilee, [7] Saying: The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. [8] And they remembered his words. [9] And going back from the sepulchre, they told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest. [10] And it was Mary Magdalen, and Joanna, and Mary of James, and the other women that were with them, who told these things to the apostles. 
[11] And these words seemed to them as idle tales; and they did not believe them. [12] But Peter rising up, ran to the sepulchre, and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths laid by themselves; and went away wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

John 20:1-18:

[1] And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre. [2] She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. [3] Peter therefore went out, and that other disciple, and they came to the sepulchre. [4] And they both ran together, and that other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. [5] And when he stooped down, he saw the linen cloths lying; but yet he went not in. 
[6] Then cometh Simon Peter, following him, and went into the sepulchre, and saw the linen cloths lying, [7] And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place. [8] Then that other disciple also went in, who came first to the sepulchre: and he saw, and believed. [9] For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. [10] The disciples therefore departed again to their home. 
[11] But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. [13] They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I know not where they have laid him. [14] When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing; and she knew not that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, thinking it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 
[16] Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). [17] Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God. [18] Mary Magdalen cometh, and telleth the disciples: I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me.


Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Tomorrow is the first day of Advent, the first day of the Church's Liturgical Year. So, Happy New Year!

I didn't plan this, but I see this post as particularly fitting at this time. Sure, it also would have made sense to have started this 20 Mysteries reflection series at this time as well, as the Joyful Mysteries begin with the Conception and Birth of Our Lord, but this first Glorious Mystery, the Resurrection, follows and end, and begins a new beginning.

The First Day

All four Gospels begin the Resurrection story, following Jesus' death and burial, by noting that this event occurs on "the first day of the week".

It is interesting to note that, if you count it out, Jesus was only dead for a little over a day and a half (He died at 3pm Friday and resurrected before sunrise--6pm--on Sunday... approximately 39 hours), and not three full days. You sometimes hear objections about this from skeptics, who say that Jesus prophesied He would be dead for three days before rising again, but clearly He wasn't.

This doesn't really represent a problem though, as it's a matter of interpretation. Jesus' death did span across three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--even if He wasn't dead for all of the three days. This is really just a side note, though.

The meaning of the First Day as it relates to this event needs to be reflected upon. It was the understanding of the Jews that observance of the Third Commandment--Remember to keep Holy the Sabbath day--is a manner in which one imitated God. In the work of creation, God worked for six days, and rested on the seventh. So, to be like God, the Jews observed this command fastidiously, working for six days, and resting on the Sabbath, and keeping it a holy day.

Again, we observe in Jesus' death, who is God, a rest on the Sabbath day. Jesus died on Friday, uttering "it is finished," His work, the work of the Old Covenant, was complete. Then He rested for the whole of the Sabbath day, and on the First Day, He rose from the dead to begin the work of the New Covenant.

But the First Day has special significance to us Christians, as this is the day that we hold the ritual observance of the Sabbath, and not on Saturday. Seventh Day Adventists are particularly critical of this practice, as they see it as a departure from obeying the Third Commandment. However, it is precisely because Jesus rose on Sunday that we practice the Sabbath on Sunday, and there is a very good reason for this, stemming from Jewish Tradition.

Saturday was not the only day that Jews observed the Sabbath. In fact, there are several holy days and feasts throughout the year that are to be observed as sabbaths. One such Feast is the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-43). During this feast the "first day and the eighth" (Sunday) are kept as Sabbaths.

But what is the Feast of Tabernacles? It has a double-meaning. It's practical significance was that it marks the end of the agricultural year, when the harvest is completed, thus it is also called the Feast of Ingathering. It's more religious significance is that it is a ritual commemoration of the Exodus, or God's freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian oppression.

Jesus' death and resurrection mark the new exodus: God's work in freeing His children from the oppression of sin and death. Each time we celebrate the Mass, it is a ritual commemoration of Jesus' death and resurrection, which He commanded at the Last Supper ("do this in memory of me"). Thus, each Mass is effectively a "Feast of Tabernacles" unto itself, as it commemorates this new exodus.

Every Sabbath, in Jewish practice, is accompanied by two ritual acts (so... not just days of rest, but holy days): the reading of Scripture at a Synagogue and the breaking and sharing of bread among families. Each Mass is exactly this, which is why Mass is obligatory on Sundays, as it fulfills our obligation under the Third Commandment to "keep holy the Sabbath day".

Jesus, Himself, completes these two ritual acts during the day of His resurrection. To the disciples who were on the road to Emmaus, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him." (Luke 24:27), and then again, when they arrived at Emmaus, Jesus went in with them, and "it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight." (Luke 24:30-31).

The First Day indeed is an important day for us as Christians. The first day, Jesus resurrected from death to marking the beginning of the New Covenant. It is also our day of worship and rest, in imitation of Our Lord, who performed the ritual acts of the Sabbath on the day of His resurrection; a commemoration of the work He did for us to free us from sin and death.

Why seek you the living with the dead?

This is the question posed to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb by the angel as an indication that Jesus had risen from the dead. But it's an important question for us to ponder. It reveals to us the character of God, as a God of life, as well as the hope we hold in Jesus that He has conquered death and will bring life to us.

Remember when the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus by asking Him about the woman who married seven brothers, and whose wife she would be at the resurrection (and they asked Him this because they didn't believe in the resurrection, and wanted to show the absurdity of it), and Jesus responded to their real dispute (the resurrection) by pointing out that God said of Himself, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob[...] He is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32)? Well it's true! God is the God of the living. He is referred to as "the living God" many times throughout the Old Testament, and throughout the Psalms and Ezekiel the blessed dead are said to reside in "the land of the living."

In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter professes that Jesus is "Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus is the living one. Thus, the Angel's admonition to Mary and the women is important. Why do you seek the living one among the dead? It is not merely a profession of Jesus' resurrection. It is also a profession of Jesus' true being: that He is the living God. In her heart, Mary Magdalene still did not understand or believe that this is who Jesus is. We see this confirmed in John's Gospel, which I will look at next.

Jesus is the living one. We are the dead. Yet, through Him, we may enter the land of the living, as the Old Testament saints did through their faith and obedience to God and His Law. May we receive this life that He offers us. Adam's sin brought about death. Jesus' love brings about our life.

Do not touch me.

This is a confounding scripture for many. It seems harsh, and it's difficult to understand in light of the reason for it: "I have not yet ascended to my Father." It is especially strange when we see in other passages that Jesus allows other people to touch Him (Thomas, who touches his wounds, for example). So, what is this really about?

Let us examine the context of this as a frame of reference. At the beginning of the chapter, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and sees that it is open and empty. She runs and tells Peter that someone has taken Jesus' body. She does not believe He is risen. As Peter and John went to examine the tomb, and after they left, she remained outside of it, weeping. She then sees two angels in the tomb, who ask her why she is weeping. Again, she reiterates that someone has taken Jesus' body and she doesn't know where they've taken it. She still does not believe.

Then she sees Jesus, but does not recognize Him. I think this is the key passage. She does not recognize Him. She asks where He has taken Jesus' body, so she may take it away.

Then Jesus says her name, "Mary", and in that way, she realizes that He's Jesus! The way He said her name, suggests an intimacy, that by that way, she is able to recognize who is speaking. But she still doesn't recognize Him for who He really is. She responds "Rabboni", which means master, or teacher.

This is when Jesus tells her not to touch Him. He says, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God." He follows His rebuff to her with instructions, which must relate to why she must not touch Him. He tells her to go to the disciples and say to them "I ascend to my Father and to your Father." He does not say "Our Father", which is to distinguish that God's Fatherhood to Jesus was distinct and different to God's Fatherhood to them. He says to say to them "I ascend to[...] to my God and your God". He does not say "Our God", which is again to distinguish that the relationship is distinct and different. The Father is His God insofar as Jesus is also a man, but unlike us, Jesus does not require a mediator between Himself and God, while we do.

Jesus instructs Mary to relay this message to the disciples so that she may come to understand who He is. He is not merely a teacher, or spiritual master. He is not merely a Rabbi, a man. He is God, and He must go to His Father in heaven.

Therefore, she ought not to cling to Him, to hold on to Him, to desire Him to stay there, with her, as a man and teacher. Rather, she ought to recognize Him for who He is, to allow Him to depart to the Father, that He may come to her in the manner of His choosing; through Eucharist and prayer and Sacrament, as the God-man.

Notice, in Matthew 28:9, "And behold Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet, and adored him." Here, there is no rebuff. They took hold of His feet, and He permitted it. Why? Because they bowed down and adored Him. They behaved toward Him as He is, as God.

So let us rejoice in Jesus' resurrection. Let us recognize this as the proof for our Hope in the living God, our Lord Jesus, who came to earth to live and teach and die and rise again, that we also may rise again to new and everlasting life. Let us thank Him for the work He has done for us to bring us out of the land of the dead, out of sin and misery, into the land of the living, into life and love.

Praise Him, our God!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

20 Mysteries: Jesus is Crucified

Matthew 27:33-61:

[33] And they came to the place that is called Golgotha, which is the place of Calvary. [34] And they gave him wine to drink mingled with gall. And when he had tasted, he would not drink. [35] And after they had crucified him, they divided his garments, casting lots; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: They divided my garments among them; and upon my vesture they cast lots.

[36] And they sat and watched him. [37] And they put over his head his cause written: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS. [38] Then were crucified with him two thieves: one on the right hand, and one on the left. [39] And they that passed by, blasphemed him, wagging their heads, [40] And saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days dost rebuild it: save thy own self: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

[41] In like manner also the chief priests, with the scribes and ancients, mocking, said: [42] He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. [43] He trusted in God; let him now deliver him if he will have him; for he said: I am the Son of God. [44] And the selfsame thing the thieves also, that were crucified with him, reproached him with. [45] Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over the whole earth, until the ninth hour.

[46] And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying: Eli, Eli, lamma sabacthani? that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [47] And some that stood there and heard, said: This man calleth Elias. [48] And immediately one of them running took a sponge, and filled it with vinegar; and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. [49] And the others said: Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to deliver him. [50] And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

[51] And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top even to the bottom, and the earth quaked, and the rocks were rent. [52] And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints that had slept arose, [53] And coming out of the tombs after his resurrection, came into the holy city, and appeared to many. [54] Now the centurion and they that were with him watching Jesus, having seen the earthquake, and the things that were done, were sore afraid, saying: Indeed this was the Son of God. [55] And there were there many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:

[56] Among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee. [57] And when it was evening, there came a certain rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was a disciple of Jesus. [58] He went to Pilate, and asked the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded that the body should be delivered. [59] And Joseph taking the body, wrapped it up in a clean linen cloth. [60] And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the monument, and went his way.
[61] And there was there Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre.

Mark 15:22-47:

[22] And they bring him into the place called Golgotha, which being interpreted is, The place of Calvary. [23] And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh; but he took it not. [24] And crucifying him, they divided his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. [25] And it was the third hour, and they crucified him.

[26] And the inscription of his cause was written over: THE KING OF THE JEWS. [27] And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. [28] And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith: And with the wicked he was reputed. [29] And they that passed by blasphemed him, wagging their heads, and saying: Vah, thou that destroyest the temple of God, and in three days buildest it up again; [30] Save thyself, coming down from the cross.

[31] In like manner also the chief priests mocking, said with the scribes one to another: He saved others; himself he cannot save. [32] Let Christ the king of Israel come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. [33] And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole earth until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani? Which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [35] And some of the standers by hearing, said: Behold he calleth Elias.

[36] And one running and filling a sponge with vinegar, and putting it upon a reed, gave him to drink, saying: Stay, let us see if Elias come to take him down. [37] And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice, gave up the ghost. [38] And the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. [39] And the centurion who stood over against him, seeing that crying out in this manner he had given up the ghost, said: Indeed this man was the son of God. [40] And there were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joseph, and Salome:

[41] Who also when he was in Galilee followed him, and ministered to him, and many other women that came up with him to Jerusalem. [42] And when evening was now come, (because it was the Parasceve, that is, the day before the sabbath,) [43] Joseph of Arimathea, a noble counsellor, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, came and went in boldly to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. [44] But Pilate wondered that he should be already dead. And sending for the centurion, he asked him if he were already dead. [45] And when he had understood it by the centurion, he gave the body to Joseph.

[46] And Joseph buying fine linen, and taking him down, wrapped him up in the fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre which was hewed out of a rock. And he rolled a stone to the door of the sepulchre. [47] And Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of Joseph, beheld where he was laid.

Luke 23:32-56:

[32] And there were also two other malefactors led with him to be put to death. [33] And when they were come to the place which is called Calvary, they crucified him there; and the robbers, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. [34] And Jesus said: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. But they, dividing his garments, cast lots. [35] And the people stood beholding, and the rulers with them derided him, saying: He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the elect of God.

[36] And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, [37] And saying: If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. [38] And there was also a superscription written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS. [39] And one of those robbers who were hanged, blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. [40] But the other answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation?

[41] And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. [42] And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. [43] And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise. [44] And it was almost the sixth hour; and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. [45] And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.

[46] And Jesus crying out with a loud voice, said: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And saying this, he gave up the ghost. [47] Now the centurion, seeing what was done, glorified God,
saying: Indeed this was a just man. [48] And all the multitude of them that were come together to that sight, and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts. [49] And all his acquaintance, and the women that had followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things. [50] And behold there was a man named Joseph, who was a counsellor, a good and just man,

[51] (The same had not consented to their counsel and doings;) of Arimathea, a city of Judea; who also himself looked for the kingdom of God. [52] This man went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. [53] And taking him down, he wrapped him in fine linen, and laid him in a sepulchre that was hewed in stone, wherein never yet any man had been laid. [54] And it was the day of the Parasceve, and the sabbath drew on. [55] And the women that were come with him from Galilee, following after, saw the sepulchre, and how his body was laid.

[56] And returning, they prepared spices and ointments; and on the sabbath day they rested, according to the commandment.

John 19:17-41:

[17] And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary, but in Hebrew Golgotha. [18] Where they crucified him, and with him two others, one on each side, and Jesus in the midst. [19] And Pilate wrote a title also, and he put it upon the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. [20] This title therefore many of the Jews did read: because the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, in Greek, and in Latin.

[21] Then the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate: Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am the King of the Jews. [22] Pilate answered: What I have written, I have written. [23] The soldiers therefore, when they had crucified him, took his garments, (and they made four parts, to every soldier a part,) and also his coat. Now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. [24] They said then one to another: Let us not cut it, but let us cast lots for it, whose it shall be; that the scripture might be fulfilled, saying: They have parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture they have cast lots. And the soldiers indeed did these things. [25] Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother' s sister, Mary of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen.

[26] When Jesus therefore had seen his mother and the disciple standing whom he loved, he saith to his mother: Woman, behold thy son. [27] After that, he saith to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour, the disciple took her to his own. [28] Afterwards, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: I thirst. [29] Now there was a vessel set there full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. [30] Jesus therefore, when he had taken the vinegar, said: It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost.

[31] Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. [32] The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. [33] But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. [34] But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. [35] And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe.

[36] For these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him. [37] And again another scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced. [38] And after these things, Joseph of Arimathea (because he was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus. And Pilate gave leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. [39] And Nicodemus also came, (he who at the first came to Jesus by night,) bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. [40] They took therefore the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths, with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

[41] Now there was in the place where he was crucified, a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein no man yet had been laid. [42] There, therefore, because of the parasceve of the Jews, they laid Jesus, because the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Image result for crucifixion

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

I apologize for being away for so long (nearly three months). Such is life, I suppose. Nevertheless, I’m back to continue the 20 Mysteries series, and it's the most difficult reflections, for me anyway, emotionally speaking: the crucifixion of Our Lord.

I posted the full text of the account of the Crucifixion from all four Gospels so that you could see
them side by side, and note the minor detail differences. If you didn’t read all of it, that’s okay. They’re mostly the same, but I will be referencing some of the variations as I go.

Oh, and also, I’m testing out a new blogging platform, so if the text and stuff doesn’t display properly, I apologize.

The Pasch

I want to remind everyone that this was the week of the Passover Feast of the Jewish Calendar of Feasts and Festivals, as well as their Sacred Calendar. The Passover Feast is the commemoration of the night when God sent the Angel of Death to kill all of the firstborn of Egypt as the final plague that would cause Pharaoh to release the Hebrews to freedom, and the Jews, who slaughtered a pure lamb and consumed it in its entirety, and then put the blood of the lamb on their doorposts as a sign that they would be saved from this plague of death and the angel “passed over” them.

That is the setting of this event. Earlier, we saw the Lamb of God consumed in His entirety during the Eucharistic supper. Now, He is being slaughtered, and His blood is shed that His people might be freed from the bondage of death. We, in Christianity, celebrate this same Pasch (Passover) during what we in English speaking countries call Easter, but rather than celebrating the foreshadowing, we celebrate the True Pasch of Jesus’ victory over death and the redemption he has won for us.

You will see references in the above texts to the “Parasceve”. The parasceve is the day before the Sabbath, and is considered a day of preparation in advance of the Sabbath, during which they could not work. During the Paschal Week, this particular parasceve was called the “Parasceve of the Pasch” and preceded the “Great Sabbath” which was a special Sabbath that occurred during the week of the Paschal Feast.

The Great Sabbath is a foreshadowing of the Eternal rest that we will find in Heaven. Jesus’ work on the Cross, then, is the “preparation” for that Great Sabbath. His Eucharist, Passion and Death are the preparatory works which free us from the bonds of sin and death, and if we are to share in the rest of that Great Eternal Sabbath, we must enter into these mysteries, and share in Jesus’ Eucharist, Passion and Death that the Angel of Death might also pass over us.

Jesus’ Passion and Death

So far, we have seen the sufferings of Jesus, and how at each stage of His Passion, each of these sufferings is compounded by additional sufferings, and deepened. That is true in this final stage as well. His first suffering, agony, reaches a peak, and Jesus exclaims “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He has reached the pinnacle of desolation, He is confronted with the immediacy of His impending death and has experienced the deep isolation that has become a part of the human condition.

His second suffering, physical trauma, is only heightened in this final stage of Roman execution. He is nailed by His hands and feet to the cross He carried. He is hung from that cross and suspended only by those nails and the strength of his muscle and bone tissues that surrounded the nail wounds. His weight, and the lack of strength that remained in Him, would have put great pressure on His lungs, making it very difficult to breathe, and taking breathes likely required Him to pull Himself up, so to speak.

His third suffering, humiliation, was made worse. The Romans stripped Him of His clothes and hung Him up before all to see, naked, beaten, bloody, and hung together along with two other criminals. The Roman soldiers, the Jewish authorities and many bystanders laughed at Him and made fun of Him, taunting Him for His assertions and demonstrations of power, and the fact that He was unable to save Himself from this misery.

His fourth suffering, prolonged suffering that required endurance, fortitude, and an acceptance of it--a participation in it—culminated here. He was hung up on the cross at the 3rd hour (9am), but did not die until the 9th hour (3pm). This means He hung up on that cross for six hours before finally dying. Having endured extreme physical trauma at His scourging, having carried a cross for several kilometers, He struggled for breath, and bled out for six hours. He had the Divine power to save Himself, but did not exercise it. He was offered wine and gall/myrrh, which would have acted as a numbing agent, so that He would not feel the pain so sharply, but He refused it. He could have simply allowed Himself to suffocate to death, but He fought to keep breathing. He could simply have just let go of it all, the way many who are severely sick just let go and allow themselves to die, but He didn’t.
He endured His suffering until His appointed hour, the 9th hour of the Parasceve of the Pasch. The ninth hour was the time of the regular evening sacrifice in Jewish custom, as well as the time of their evening prayers, which ended the day.

At the ninth hour, Elijah prayed to God against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and God answered by fire from heaven. Ezra’s great prayer of confession and intercession, which was followed by a return of Israel to God, also occurred at the ninth hour. When Daniel uttered his own prayer of confession and intercession "about the time of the evening oblation", God sent the angel Gabriel to answer his prayer.

The ninth hour is the hour God’s people offer sacrifice to Him, and it is the hour God sends salvation to His people. This was Jesus’ hour, His hour of sacrifice, as a man, and His hour of salvation as God.

His Last Words

Jesus uttered seven phrases from the cross. We would do well to learn these words, to reflect on them and come to understand them in their depth. He doesn’t say much, but what He does say reveals much.

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Let these words be a magnificent comfort to you. Jesus enjoys the Divine life, the Divine communion. He knows in its fullness, the majesty of God’s goodness and love. In entering into the mystery of the horror of human sin, suffering and death, Jesus comes to clearly understand the true enormity of our ignorance. If we could see the sheer ugliness of our wickedness, it would stagger us into utter stupidity. Our ignorance of the great glory of God and the awful offense that our sins are against Him is the only thing protecting us from immediate and total damnation.

Jesus recognizes our ignorance and prays to the Father to forgive us because we truly do not know what we are doing. Our sins cry out to Heaven for justice, but Jesus prays for mercy. And He does not just do this at any time. He does this at the very moment when we are killing Him, putting Him through the worst torture and humiliation. It is at the moment when we are sinning, the moment we are doing our worst deeds, that Jesus prays for our forgiveness. Remember that the next time you find yourself committing that same old terrible sin that you’ve been doing for as long as you can remember. Even then, He is praying to the Father for your forgiveness.

Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.

If Jesus is praying for you even at your worst, then you MUST respond! These next words, which Jesus speaks to the good thief (St. Dysmas), are a promise that He offers to all of us, should we repent of our sins and turn to Him. “Truly I say to you, you will be with me in paradise.” What an awesome gift! Repent!

Woman, behold thy son. -- Behold thy mother.

The words Jesus speaks to Mary, His mother, and to John, His beloved disciple, are also given to us. Jesus addresses Mary as He has done in the past (think back to the Wedding at Cana); “Woman”. This is to signify that He is speaking to her as the New Adam, and she as the New Eve (for Eve was named woman, or Isha, by Adam before the fall, after which she became Eve). Thus, He is speaking to her, in the capacity of her relationship to all of humanity. He says to her: behold thy son, and to John: behold thy mother.

She, as Woman, is our spiritual mother. She is the Geborah, the Great Lady, the Queen Mother of the Davidic Kingship. As the Geborah, she dispenses the treasury of graces that belong to the King, Jesus, to her people as they come to her with petitions. Jesus gives her to us as a special aid to help bring us to Him, to aid us on our road to repentance. If you need help repenting, ask your Mother.

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

This exclamation made by Jesus is scandalous to many, mainly because it’s widely misunderstood. Jesus appears to be despairing here. Some authors even go so far as to suggest that Jesus was actually cut off from communion with the Father. This is heresy, of course, because the Divine Godhead cannot be divided, and the Hypostatic Union can likewise also not be divided. Certainly, Jesus experienced the human condition, and understood the sense of isolation and loneliness that we often feel at the silence of God. But, He, being God, was not disconnected from the Father, and so could not have meant this phrase with a literal meaning. He was not despairing. Rather the opposite. This phrase implies hope.

How do we arrive at this understanding? We do so when we realize that Jesus is actually uttering the first sentence of an ancient Jewish prayer that comes from the Psalms of David: Psalm 21:[2] “O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins.”

In this prayer, we see that the reality of sin, our sins, is what cuts us off from God, and what creates in us this sense of isolation, of separation from God. However, if one reads this prayer in its entirety, it becomes clear that the prayer is a prayer of hope. The author the prayer reflects on his current situation as hopeless. Every evil has come upon him, and there seems no hope. And every cry he sends to heaven appears to be unanswered, and the heavens are silent.

But then he remembers his forefathers, and the help that always came to them from God. Jesus’ prayer here is not one of despair. It is a prayer of deliverance, and hope. But, if we are to understand that it is sin which binds us, which cuts us off from God, then as a prayer of deliverance, Jesus must have been praying it for us. It is encouragement to us.

First, He prays to the Father for our forgiveness. Then, He promises to us that if we repent, we will join Him in paradise. Then, He gives us His mother as a great aid in that journey. Now, He encourages us to keep trying, even when we feel like God is not hearing our prayers, like the heavens are silent, and our sins continue to cut us off from Him: HAVE HOPE, and remember the faithfulness of God. He does hear us, and we must persevere.

I thirst.

Jesus, knowing “all things were now accomplished”, said “I thirst.” Jesus says this after His mission is completed. Jesus has done what He came to do. He is ready to die. But He says one final thing to us. It is His final interaction with us before He dies. “I thirst.”

What does He thirst for? What does Jesus thirst for? Surely, it wasn’t for the vinegar that they offered Him. We thirst for something, too, don’t we? At the well, when Jesus spoke to the woman, He offered her living water, which, after drinking it, would satisfy her thirst, and she would never be thirsty again. Well, who is that living water, if not Jesus, Himself? We thirst for God, for that relationship with Him, even if we recognize it or not.

Well, that thirst isn’t a one-way street. God thirsts for us too. He wants that relationship with us as much as we want it with Him. More so, actually! Infinitely more so.

Jesus has just finished giving us direction and instruction to come back to Him, praying to the Father to forgive us. Why? Because He thirsts for us. He came down from Heaven, became a finite creature, the infinite God! He came for us, because He thirsts for us! Let us not deny Him.

It is consummated.

He has completed His mission. He has loved us in as great a way as He could, by laying down His life for us. He’s done everything He can, for His part. The rest remains for us to do; to respond to this great gift of self. He can do no more. His work is finished. It is consummated. All He can do now is wait for us to come to Him, to recognize His gift, and thank Him for it, and repent of our sins, and enter back into loving relationship with Him.

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

He has completed the will of the Father, He can do no more, and commends Himself into His Father’s loving hands. You can imagine a loving father catching his son as he collapses from exhaustion. Gently, he takes him to rest.

God bless.